24 May 2022

Sydney’s Blowfish: where gamers do what they love for a living

The indie game developer behind hit strategy game, Siegecraft has grown fast. Blowfish started life in 2010 in a two-bedroom unit in Sydney. In 2021, it was bought for A$35 million.

The recent acquisition of Blowfish highlights the rapid rise of Aussie games studios. It also demonstrates Australia’s growing expertise in blockchain.

From humble beginnings, Blowfish’s North Sydney headquarters now boast an 80-strong team. The acquisition will help fund the creation of a full-service studio, and a further 30-strong expansion in headcount. 

Overseas investment helps Aussie studio grow

Blowfish was founded by managing director Ben Lee and artistic director Aaron Grove in 2010. The studio develops its own games and publishes third party games for VR, console, mobile and PC.

The company was acquired by Hong Kong-based game software company Animoca Brands in July 2021. Lee says the acquisition means the studio receives great support and oversight but remains self-managed day-to-day.

‘It’s been terrific and it has allowed us to grow rapidly,’ says Lee. ‘We’ve seen growth in our narrative, audio, art, production and engineering departments. We are bringing in new skills. Most of that growth has been in Australia. Nearly all in Sydney.’

Rapid team growth has seen Blowfish projects grow as well. ‘We have been able to make our products bigger and better, and that’s increased our revenue,’ he adds. ‘Now we are working on more projects than ever before.’

Australian creativity powers a thriving games industry

Lee doesn’t hesitate to recommend Australia as a great place to build a full-service games development studio.

‘Australia is full of creative, skilled people with a great attitude and a strong work ethic,’ he says.

Lee also comments on liveability in the land Down Under. ‘Sydney is a beautiful place to live. It enables great work-life balance,’ he says. ‘We make great games and the lifestyle attracts great people.’

Lee also points to excellent government support for R&D in games, arts and tech in Australia. This includes the Digital Games Tax Offset (DGTO). The DGTO is a 30% refundable tax offset on eligible expenditure for businesses that spend a minimum of A$500,000 on games development. It comes into effect on 1 July 2022.

‘Support like this really helps everything come together,’ says Lee.

Aussie studios ahead of the game in blockchain

Lee sees Australian game development studios as leaders in almost every genre – and advanced capabilities in blockchain.

‘I think Australian studios can do everything,’ he says. ‘We do well in mobile games. We have made great AAA games. We also have great indie console games and action games.’

Blowfish is gaining a reputation as a blockchain game pioneer. ‘Our game Phantom Galaxies is now being touted as one of the top blockchain games in the world,’ says Lee.

‘Not many other studios are doing this at the moment. This is another avenue where Australian expertise in blockchain is finding its way into Australian industry and creating world-class products.’

A studio where people do what they love for a living

With the acquisition under its belt and exciting projects in the pipeline, Blowfish has its sights aimed high. ‘We want to be one of the biggest games studios in Australia, making world-class games – including in blockchain,’ says Lee.

But that doesn’t mean the studio won’t stay true to its indie roots. ‘We’ve built a great culture and a workforce of people that just want to make great games,’ he adds.

‘Most importantly, we’ve created a studio that gives people an opportunity to do what they love for a living.’

International investors are buying into the Australian games industry. The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is committed to helping international investors find opportunities.

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